The Hamilton man arrested in connection to the death of firefighter Patrick Wolterman was arraigned Tuesday morning in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
Lester Parker, 66, the owner of the Pater Avenue home, where Wolterman died last December in an arson, is charged with murder and aggravated arson.
He was arrested about 12:40 p.m. Monday on an indictment by a Butler County grand jury, according to Hamilton police.
Parker appeared frail in an orange Butler County Jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled Tuesday morning in court for arraignment.
Wolterman’s family filled the courtroom, including his widow Bre, who was sitting in the front row, just a few feet from Parker. About 10 Hamilton firefighters were also in attendance in a show of support for the Wolterman family.
Defense attorney Richard Hyde entered a not guilty plea on Parker’s behalf.
“I ask for a reasonable bond,” Hyde said to Judge Michael Oster, noting Parker is a life-long resident of Hamilton, a former Marine and has health issues.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser requested a substantial bond, saying he wanted to ensure Parker showed up for court.
After acknowledging one of the charges Parker faces is murder, Oster set a $500,000 bond. Parker is scheduled to be back in court Monday for a pre-trial hearing.
Gmoser declined any comment after Tuesday’s hearing, including if any other arrests are possible.
Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said Monday he believes more people will be arrested in connection with the deadly crime.
“This case is still an active investigation … and I am confident this will not be the last arrest,” Bucheit said, adding that the department will continue to honor its pledge to deliver justice for Wolterman and his family.
The murder charge carries a prison term of 15 years to life and a $15,000 fine. The aggravated arson charge carries a maximum prison term of 11 years and a $20,000 fine, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Hyde also declined comment after the arraignment, but said Parker has always maintained his innocence.
Parker told the Journal-News last year he was not sure if he and his wife would return to the home after the tragedy that occurred there.
“The house can be replaced, but the firefighter’s life cannot,” he told the Journal-News, adding that he and his wife were in Las Vegas celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary and left just before the fire broke out.